Nearing the end of my college career, I have had a few moments to reflect on some of the many lessons I have learned. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in three separate offices for different internships the past three summers. Being an intern can sometimes be difficult, because it is hard to learn about a company or organization in just three short months. Often time, by the time you get trained and fimilar with what is going on, the end of your summer comes near. Although I sometimes find myself discouraged, because I am ready to start my professional career, I have gained some very valuable insight about working in the professional world. I would like to share a few of the small things that can make a difference in the working environment as an intern.
Be aware of the office environment. Every office behaves differently and has their unique environment and culture. Take notice of the small things that are going on, and try to blend in. How are people dressing? Do they take lunch at their desk, or do they go out? Do they knock on each other’s office doors, or is it an open door policy? Do people work together on projects, or are they assigned to individuals? How often are people taking breaks? Is music playing at the desk acceptable? Do coworkers joke around and talk about personal lives, or is it mostly business? Does the business appear to be more conservative or more liberal? How well do they work with other people in the industry? How do they answer the phone? Do people stay in the office late or get their early? Do they leave to run errands? Noticing these little things can help you blend in better, and it gives you an idea of how to conduct yourself at work. The last thing you want to be criticized for is something as minor as these details. They are something that you can easily control, so be aware of what those around you are doing, so you can fit into the office culture.
Document what you do. As an intern, the major goals are to learn about the company and start building a resume. It is always a good idea to make a list of what you did while interning there. Making a list of what you do and the projects you completed will help you when you want to show what you did to a future employer. When I worked for the Kansas Soybean Commission, I made a list of what I did each day. When my internship was over, I sent it to my supervisor. This gave him an idea of what I completed that summer. Furthermore, he was able to further develop the internship program by being aware of how I spent my time. With that information, he was able to tell future interns what they would be doing, and he could change how he wanted them to spend their time. Be specific about the events and meetings you went to, and who was in attendance. You never know when those names, companies, and events will cross your path in the future, and having it down on paper will definitely help you remember what you did years prior.
Smile. After working for the Kansas Soybean Commission last summer, I asked for a recommendation for internships for this summer. One of the things mentioned was my positive attitude. Going into work with a smile and a pleasant attitude was something that was mentioned in my recommendation. My coworkers knew that I was happy to be going into the office everyday, and that I was willing to work.
You are not inferior. Many times while interning, you feel like you are “just an intern”. It is easy to believe that your experiences and ideas are not as solid as those that have been working in an organization for years. Get that out of your head! In meetings share your thoughts, and share what you have done in college and high school if it relates to the subject. Many times, coworkers and colleagues want your insight, because you are new to the company and you have a different perspective. Furthermore, being different (a younger college student) gives you an advantage, because you are familiar with information associated with your generation, university, and clubs. Not only do they want to hear your voice, but it shows colleagues and coworkers that you aren’t afraid to help the company and express your opinions, despite being “just an intern.” They hired you for a reason, so don’t be afraid to show them the awesome ideas you have.
It is okay to not like the job. After my freshman year I had an internship in a lab, because my major was food science. Simply put, the job was not for me. There were days, where I felt very unhappy with the tasks I was doing. On those days, I would make it fun for me. I would play games; I made a competition with myself to see how many samples I could finish in one day, or when I was sweeping endless amounts of flour, I would turn the radio on and dance with the broom. It may be silly, but it got me through the day, and it kept my spirit optimistic. Sometimes internships are valuable in the fact that they show you what you don’t want to do. After that internship, I changed my major. Despite not being inspired by the job, and changing my major to a different field of work, the internship was still valuable to future employers. I was able to take the aspects of the science-based internship, and show how certain things I did apply to communications. Despite not really enjoying the work, I still went to the lab wanting to learn more about the business, research, and clients. Maintaining a positive attitude and a willingness to learn was key, even though I dreaded going to work each day. Now, I am able to talk about the more technical side of wheat and the baking industry, because I have an understanding of what the company did in a macro sense as well as the more detailed research I conducted. In interviews, I have b able to teach the person interviewing me about what I did that summer. The diversity is something that has been an advantage for me on my resume. If I would have tuned out and became disinterested, I wouldn’t have learned enough to be able to share about the lab work I conducted. There is something positive in every situation and task. Find it and embrace it.
By Beth Holz